I never have considered myself a bandwagon jumper or a fair-weather fan, but I have always enjoyed watching Sam Hornish Jr. race, which is the main reason I am pulling for him in tomorrow’s race. I am not really sure why I latched onto Sam; I guess it is just one of those things where he was winning when I started watching the IRL, and winners get lots of exposure, so I was able to focus on Sam. In much the same way I latched onto Jacques Villenueve when I started watching F1 even though Damon Hill was the eventual Champion, so I have to think I am not all about bandwagons. The same goes for Jeff Gordon – he was winning when I started watching racing in 1995, so he was getting tons of press, plus I had to pull for someone that was close to my age when all the other Winston Cup mainstays were closer to my uncle’s age.
Anyway, I am going to be pulling for Hornish and the Penske team tomorrow, but all eyes will be focused on Danica Patrick, who starts on the 2nd row (4th position). Admit it – you are pulling for Danica to do well. If she does well, then the face of racing forever changes.
I do not follow the IRL enough – when I watch races, I always enjoy them, but I do not find anything compelling enough to make me *want* to watch the events. Shame on me? Maybe, but a few years ago I argued that the IRL needed to become more like NASCAR and really put an emphasis on the personality of its drivers in order for the IRL to capture the public’s imagination. I still feel that way; besides the occasional article on Hornish, and now all the focus on Patrick, the IRL continues to fail to fly the banner for its drivers. NASCAR may rule the roost, but so many of NASCAR’s top drivers have come from open wheel racing that the IRL has to learn to market its product better.
For the last several years I have watched the Indy 500, as I will tomorrow (God willing), and as I have for the last few years (except for Michael Andretti’s last 500) I will pull for Hornish. Regardless of who wins, I hope for dry weather, an exciting race, a photo finish, and for the IRL media types to finally capitalize on the personalities behind the wheel.